Jesus will become one of the greatest ever, claims Alves
City forward expected to emulate Ronaldo Brazil coach Tite says England are a ‘big team’
If Marcus Rashford truly hopes to become the “new Ronaldo”, then his first task may have to be wrestling the title from another 20-yearold striker who plies his trade in Manchester.
For as much as Rashford takes inspiration from Ronaldo’s goals, as he revealed this week, so is Gabriel Jesus being asked to emulate the Brazilian great. The Manchester City striker, who will start in attack for Brazil at Wembley tonight, has been heralded as Ronaldo reborn by none other than Dani Alves, his international team-mate and a man well versed in footballing greatness.
“For all that he has done, all that he has achieved, there is no pressure,” said Alves, who makes up a strong Brazilian contingent at Paris St-germain after eight years with Barcelona and a spell at Juventus.
“He is doing what he loves. I was not joking when I called him the new Ronaldo. I still think the same. They have a similar drive. He is going to be one of the great players in football. He is already one of the best in the world.”
In 12 games for Brazil, Jesus has already claimed seven goals and four assists.
Despite his age, the former Palmeiras striker is fast becoming a crucial cog in a Brazilian machine that is finally running smoothly, under manager Tite, after years of spluttering disappointment.
Much like he does for Pep Guardiola’s City, where Jesus has never lost a game, the 20-year-old provides both clinical finishing and the platform for the other attacking stars to thrive. He has formed a frighteningly efficient partnership with Neymar, who operates on the left of Brazil’s attack, and will also link up with Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho this evening.
“City should be very pleased with Palmeiras and the coaches there who formed a player who is already at such a good level,” said Tite. “He came here [to England] with a natural fluency. The mental capacity he has and his technical ability – he did not need much time to adapt. He was already showing a good level.”
England, of course, have their own talismanic striker to call upon, even if Harry Kane has been ruled out of tonight’s friendly through injury.
Asked about England’s prospects at next year’s World Cup, Tite cited Kane as a primary reason for Gareth Southgate’s side being “one of the favourites” for the tournament.
“Kane is a penalty-box player with an impressive finishing ability,” said Tite. “He is good in the air, good with his right foot and left. It’s very impressive – he has a lot of quality.
“The characteristics of Jesus and Kane are a bit different. Gabriel attacks the space and gives us that depth. Kane is more positional. They are two strong strikers.
“All the big teams, like England, have this new generation coming through. Even though Southgate has only had 13 games so far, they have Dele Alli, Kane and the experience of Gary Cahill.
“They have got tradition which carries weight, so I see England as one of the favourites. And I am not just saying that because I am here at Wembley speaking in front of English people.”
Under the management of Tite, who described himself as “super, super happy” to be managing his country, Brazil sauntered through World Cup qualification, claiming 32 points from an available 36.
In the 16 matches since he took over from the sacked Dunga, Brazil have scored 38 goals and conceded only five. They will tonight be captained by Alves, who said it was “very special to play at a temple of football like Wembley”.
In recent days, though, attention has swung away from Brazilian brilliance and towards Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, who broke down in tears during a press conference over reports that he had strained relations with PSG coach Unai Emery. “He is an extraordinary player in two ways: he is a goalscorer and a player who makes goals,” said Tite of Neymar. “He is authentic and human.”